On August 7th, the Ontario Labour Relations Board agreed to consolidate the three bargaining units represented by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA) into a single unit, covered by one collective agreement.
The UOITFA is the first union in Ontario to apply for and win a consolidation of units under the new labour relations provisions enacted in 2017 by the Liberal provincial government. In early April, the UOITFA filed a certification application for a group of full-time limited-term faculty, and were certified to represent the new unit later that month. The union applied for consolidation immediately after certification.
For the UOITFA, one consolidated unit means less time devoted to bargaining, and less effort devoted to fighting for the same rights three times over. As the UOITFA enters bargaining with the employer for a consolidated agreement in the weeks ahead, all its resources can be dedicated to getting industry competitive terms and conditions of employment for all its members.
This historic win results from several decades of advocacy by OCUFA in partnership with our member associations to re-instate bargaining unit consolidation as part of the Ontario Labour Relations Act. These powers were removed by the Progressive Conservative government in the mid-1990s. Since that time, many Ontario faculty associations have organized new units of contract and teaching stream faculty, temporary and limited term faculty, and librarians, despite the additional effort and resources required to administer multiple units and collective agreements.
In its decision, the Ontario Labour Relations Board articulated a clear path forward for other faculty associations wishing to pursue consolidations. The Board set a low bar for granting consolidation. It determined that it need only consider whether consolidation would result in an effective collective bargaining relationship. The existing relationship between the association and the employer did not need to be proven ineffective to justify change from the status quo.
The Board also found that the strong similarities in the types of work our members do was more important in creating a community of interest than the differences in tenure of employment or time spent on research.
Finally, the Board considered the fact that the union was the applicant, noting that the wishes of the employees for consolidation pointed in the same direction as the development of an effective collective bargaining relationship.
OCUFA congratulates the UOITFA on this path-breaking win, and thanks the association for its leadership in improving the collective bargaining environment in the university sector.